Carpenters' Hall

« Return to History Index

Chapter TwoBOOK STARTChapter Four

Blueprint for a Revolution: The Spies at Carpenters' Hall by Charles and Nancy Cook

Chapter Three

Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.
Poor Richard's Almanack, by Benjamin Franklin
Cupola to be topped by a weather vane to indicate direction of wind.

Publisher of Poor Richard's Almanac, Dr. Franklin was one of America's first weather forecasters, but for more than the weather, he was interested in knowing what way "the wind blows."

Francis Daymon had something very important to tell Dr. Franklin, and as soon as Francis began speaking with his employer, Benjamin Franklin was very interested to hear everything he had to say. Francis Daymon had been contacted by a most unusual traveler from France, named Achard de Bonvouloir.

Benjamin Franklin took a brief look around to be sure no one could overhear their conversation and then drew Francis Daymon closer to him after the door had been closed.

He spoke to Francis in a whisper, "Now tell me from the beginning all you know about this fellow."

Francis Daymon proceeded to tell Dr. Franklin about the mysterious traveler whose full name and title was Chevalier Julien Alexander Achard de Bonvouloir. He had been a French soldier several years before and may have been wounded in his leg. He walked with a limp and did have some trouble getting around even though he was not yet thirty. A few years earlier, Bonvouloir had sailed to America and toured the colonies. His knowledge of America had made him a valuable candidate to undertake the mission for which the King of France needed him.

Bonvouloir had been asked by an influential member of the French court to return to America. Since he had already been to America he would have some existing contacts he could trust, because this time rather than travel the colonies as a tourist, he was to return on a secret mission-as a spy.

The French were apparently very pleased that Bonvouloir had accepted the dangerous mission. He came from a distinguished family, and to find someone in France familiar with the British colonies was very rare. Still, the mission was so dangerous, that Bonvouloir was on his own. If he got into any trouble, the French government would not help. They would deny any knowledge of him, his trip, or his mission. He was not allowed to carry any written instructions to verify with anyone in the colonies that he represented the highest authority in France.

At the same time, the King wanted Bonvouloir to obtain as much secret intelligence about the colonies as possible. He was also to advise the leaders of the colonies if they were interested in overthrowing their existing English rule, that the French would be quite sympathetic to their cause.

Dr. Franklin had many questions. The first was why would anyone want to come to America from France on such a dangerous mission?

Publisher of Poor Richard's Almanack, Dr. Franklin was one of Americas' first weather forecasters, but for more than the weather, he was interested in knowing what way "the wind blows."

Francis Daymon could not answer this question for sure, but Bonvouloir had confided in Daymon that he was only being paid a couple hundred livres, barely enough to live on in Paris. Obviously, it was not for the money, but Bonvouloir was proud to be given an opportunity to do something for his country and perhaps gain the respect of the other distinguished members of his family.

Benjamin Franklin was not convinced. It was possible that this French fellow was part of a trap. He could be a double agent, actually working for the British, and he had been sent to America to catch Franklin and others in their conspiracy against English rule. It was possible Bonvouloir was actually working for King George. Benjamin Franklin had both great hopes and great concerns as he listened further to Francis Daymon.

Francis Daymon explained further what he had obviously learned from the French spy.

The voyage across the Atlantic had been terrible. Bonvouloir had never been happier to be back on land when he reached Philadelphia. He immediately made contact with Francis Daymon, whom Bonvouloir had met on his earlier travels. Francis Daymon had been born in France, himself, so Bonvouloir met with Daymon to plan the best way to proceed.

Julien de Bonvouloir could not have imagined how fortunate this initial choice would become. Francis Daymon had immediate access to one of the most important men in the colonies-Dr. Benjamin Franklin.

Benjamin Franklin's eyes twinkled and there was a slight smile on his face, which had only smiled occasionally during the past several days. France was a traditional enemy of England. It was also a very strong country with an army and a navy that could truly help the American cause. France would make a splendid ally!

Forgetting his fear that Bonvouloir might be a double agent, Franklin was most interested in the prospects this French traveler offered.

"We must meet with this man," Franklin told Francis Daymon.

Then Benjamin Franklin quickly added, "But we must be very careful. If we are caught, there could be great consequences for all of us."

Francis Daymon did not think about the word "consequences." It was just the way Dr. Franklin spoke, making things sound important. Francis Daymon was happy that so far the effort he was making to help Julien de Bonvouloir seemed to be working out so well.

Helping was fun.

It was not until a few days later that Francis Daymon realized he would do more than help. He was going to be closely involved in the meetings. Francis Daymon was becoming a spy for France and the colonies.

And the "consequences" which Dr. Franklin had mentioned could be death!

Copyright by Charles and Nancy Cook. Used by kind permission

Chapter TwoBOOK STARTChapter Four

Carpenters' Hall, 320 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Open free to the public daily, except Mondays (and Tuesdays in Jan. and Feb.), from 10am-4pm

Interested in using our pictures or information? Click here!

Copyright 1999-2015 by the Independence Hall Association,
a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, founded in 1942.
Publishing electronically as On the Internet since July 4, 1995.